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The 10 Biggest Chain Stores in NYC as Mom and Pops Disappear (Guess the Biggest! Hint, It's Not Starbucks)

Mom and pop stores are disappearing in NYC and across the country, while national chains add more and more stores.

As the economy flounders and costs paradoxically go up, one disturbing trend sticks out: Mom and pop stores are disappearing in NYC and across the country, while national chains add more and more stores.

If you guessed that Dunkin' Donuts is the most ubiquitous New York City chain, you would be correct. It tops the list with 448 stores* ("one for every 18,731 residents," as the New York Post points out). But if you work or live in Manhattan and thought Starbucks, then your perceptions for the island would be accurate. Although there are "only" 227 Starbucks (#5) in NYC, 182 of them are in Manhattan, an average of eight Starbucks per square mile. Dunkin' Donuts has 138 stores in Queens, and approximately 105 in Manhattan. Close behind Dunkin' Donuts, as the most proliferate chain, is Subway, with 435 stores (and the company with the most stores in Manhattan, with 189).

The November special Issue of the indispensable City Limits, a cutting-edge policy magazine concerned with low-income participation in NYC civic life, focuses on "Mom and Popeyes: The Death and Life of the Neighborhood Store." (Although City Limits has a good Web site, this issue is not online; you'll have to go to the news stand or bookstore to buy the magazine, which has a great photo spread of city neighborhoods by Mark Fader).

New York City, known for its vibrant, thriving local neighborhoods filled with ethnic flavors still has, as editor Jarrett Murphy describes, "genuine neighborhood retail on dozens of streets in the city," like Arthur Avenue in the Belmont section of the Bronx. "Not only do these strips pleasingly mix commerce with life's other ingredients...they still feature the small, independent, mom-and-pop businesses that anchor neighborhoods and make them unique."

But like in communities all across the country, as Melanie Lefcowicz reports, "Independent retail is an endangered species...losing ground steadily to regional and national chains " Murphy adds: "Chain stores are not evil incarnate; they do provide jobs and tax dollars. But they simply don't have the same stake in a neighborhood as a truly local business."

The creative think-tank, Center for an Urban Future, has done two comprehensive studies of chain-store proliferation. In the summer of 2009, there were a few large companies that bit the dust, like Circuit City and Burritoville. But their analysis included a surprising finding: "Dozens of chain stores actually have expanded their footprint in the five boroughs over the past year. Over 30 percent of the retailers from their previous year’s report have opened more stores in the city in the past twelve months, and an equal share has held firm with the same number of stores as in 2008."

The chain that many New Yorkers love to hate, McDonalds, ranks at #3 in the number of locations, with 245 stores in NYC (73 in Manhattan), while other fast-food chains have relatively smaller footprints -- Burger King 82, KFC 69, Wendy's 43, White Castle 35 and Taco Bell 32.

If you think banks seem to be on every other corner, especially in Manhattan, that is probably because there are 380 Chase locations in NYC (145 in Manhattan) and they would rank #3 if we were counting banks in terms of branch locations. The next four banks would all be in the top 10 (for this article, the ranked list is limited to retail chains): 150 Capital One, 135 Citibank, 116 HSBC, and 111 Bank Of America branches. For many New Yorkers the plague-like proliferation of banks, even as local businesses go belly-up, is a source of frustration.

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